Southern Bohemia: 9 Towns Perused

Last summer I spent seven weeks in the USA.  It was a swirl of meeting babies, drinking coffee, walking around lakes, and lots and lots of talking.  Multiple states, lots of suitcase-wrinkled clothes, and a mix of emotions.

This summer I chose differently and opted for 4 weeks in the States.  I returned to a mountain bike waiting for me and the prospect of a tour of southern Bohemia--a proper re-entry to the Czech Republic.  Except for a single (and delightful) trip to Český Krumlov in April 2012, I hadn't enjoyed the wonders of Southern Bohemia.  So, bicycles in tow, we took on South Bohemia.

Photo: Karel Dušík
Naturally, the forecast predicted rain everywhere nearly every day, boding for a perfect holiday.  It accompanied us on the road, as did road construction.  So while driving towards České Budějovice, we made minimal stops.  Our first was initiated by my tantrum about wanting to use an indoor toilet, which led to an extended lunch, and only time for a brief walk through the square of Telč (our last stop in southern Moravia).  Its elongated town square features arcades topped with colourful building facades that look like they were cut out with fancy scissors (it's even an UNESCO site). A stroll around it and the local castle complex before returning to the warmth of the car.

We finally arrived in České Budějovice and saw its square by artificial light.  The next day, Thursday, was dedicated to biking around Třeboň (an experience so bloody that it deserves its own post) followed by a walk through the picturesque square before coffee in the castle courtyard. Třeboň is a historical city, founded in the 1100s, whose square is also dappled with appealing facades, arcades, and its own plague column.  

Though the day's bike ride had taken a lot of blood from me, it wasn't more than a shower could wash off (bike grease was a greater foe).  I couldn't help but request a trip to Hluboká nad Vltavou.  There you can find Hluboká Castle.  It was built as a Gothic castle in the 1200s, but it was expanded/remodeled/rebuilt a number of times, most recently into a Romantic Windsor style in the 1800s.  The fairytale, far-from-the-original current version required some slight convincing to get us to such a kitschy paradise.  So, be warned by what you're about to see . . .

The experience was made complete by a spontaneous choice to stay for the recital of various pre-teen and teenage violin and cello students.  The skill for their age was quite remarkable, and it was pleasant to hear the sound of violin reverberating through the spacious room as Mucha posters looked on.

The next morning it was time to see České Budějovice in proper light. It is the largest city in southern Bohemia and has great historical significance.  To y'all reading, though, maybe you just ought to know that this is the place of Budweiser Budvar Brewery (if you want to know the legal disputes about Budweiser, I leave that to your own time and research). We walked around the square again before climbing the 225 steps to the top of Černá Věž.

The square.Photo: Karel Dušík

Our final target was Modrava, which would be our home base for biking in the Šumava National Park, but not without hitting some other points of interest along the way, such as the Zlatá Koruna Monastaery.  The sun was shining, the area was quiet, and the information about touring poorly communicated.  So we saw the courtyard, a couple of rooms, and some brilliant children's art.

Perhaps my favourite part of the exhibition at
Zlatá Koruna, a child's portrait of Karel Schwarzenberg

With higher hopes for the always charming Český Krumlov, we hit the road.  Also an UNESCO site,  Český Krumlov's charm is mainly in its city centre.  Along with many of the towns and cities already mentioned, it has its roots in the 13th century.  Its historic centre is hugged by the Vltava River, and its relatively peaceful history has maintained its buildings remarkably.

The local castle was built in 1240, and features a tower that looks as if it were painted with chalky pastels.  The castle complex is quite large, which makes it suitable to hold the many Asian, European (and occasional American) tourists. Lest it become too crowded, the locals could let loose the two bears which make their home in the castle moat.

According to the Official Information System of Český Krumlov, bears have been kept at the castle since the 1500s and have been kept in the moat since 1707. 
We escaped some of the tourists by reposing in a shady courtyard for my daily dose of espresso.  After our fill of caffeine, the city's cuteness, and (Karel's) envy of those passing through by boat, we continued on in hopes of fulfilling sportier dreams.

After some trails, near tears, and a lot more rain over the next couple of days, we set off from Modrava.  We struck off onto a new route and soon came across our first point of interest: Strakonice.  We went, of course, to the square and then to the local castle.  Its oldest parts are Gothic (again, the 13th century), but more additions/reconstructions have been made.  Its moat is filled with small horses, a mule, goats, and various foul (fortunately for them all, no bears).

Having stretched our legs, it was time to get more serious about our points of interest.  So, back on the road, Karel took the wheel, I took his smart phone, and together we managed to find our way to Písek, which boasts the oldest (non-destroyed) bridge in the Czech Republic, which dates from the 13th century.

Knowing our priorities, Karel first got me a fix of cappuccino, panna cotta, and--most importantly--bathroom facilities.  Then we were both set to explore the old squares and buildings and the bridge.

As if a 13th-century bridge weren't enough, the cherry on top for me was this play on words:
sochy z písku v Písku.

Our final destination on our grand South Bohemian tour was Tábor.  Its history is the most interesting to me.  It was founded later than many of the other towns I have mentioned, due to its founding being resultant of the history around the person Jan Hus.  In 1415 this early reformer was burned at the stake.  Previous to that time he had been preaching in the region of present-day Tábor, and in 1420, some of his followers, led by Jan Žižka, founded the town as a fortress.  These early reformers hoped to make their own society.  It soon became the base of the Hussite movement. (Information taken from the official city of Tábor website)
Photo: Karel Dušík

This statue of Tábor founder Jan Žižka shows the warlord bearing the official weapon of the Hussites, the palcát or mace.
The sun deemed to shine on us and as if the clouds had exhausted themselves of their rain, we were granted with sunlight for as long as the day dared to share it with us.  Now this Ostravanka is safely back home in Moravia.


  1. So lovely, Charity....doesn't even look real...Hooray! and Welcome back home!


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